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W. Gymnastics: Hard-fought fourth

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Senior co-captain Carly Janiga delivered a standout performance in her lastStanford career appearance at this weekend’s NCAA Super Six finals, earning a near-perfect score on uneven bars to lead the team to a fourth-place finish. (MASARU OKA/Staff Photographer)

The Stanford women’s gymnastics team delivered its highest-scoring performance of the season to finish fourth at the NCAA Super Six finals at Florida’s O’Connell Center on Friday. With a 197.100, the Card finished behind No. 1 UCLA (197.725), Oklahoma (197.250) and Alabama (197.225), edging out Florida (197.000) and Utah (196.225). The Stanford team was able to overcome rough patches to secure a position that was only one spot from the program’s best-ever finish.

The Card suffered a balance beam fall on the opening routine of the meet, but managed to rebound with some near-perfect scores, including a 9.95 on uneven bars from senior co-captain Carly Janiga. One judge awarded her routine a perfect 10.0.

“We might be in a sticky situation, but we have each other’s backs, and we know that,” Janiga told GoStanford.com. “If someone goes down, you can’t get down on yourself, because you know the next person is going to be there to rock it.”

Senior and co-captain Allyse Ishino competed in Thursday’s team preliminaries through her sickness and proved to be a key contributor on Friday. The team was under significant pressure to hit every routine in the opening series, but Ishino followed with a clutch 9.8 to keep Stanford going.

Likewise, on the floor, the Cardinal was nearly forced to count a 9.70, but senior Tenaya West closed it out with a 9.85 to add to the team score of 49.325 on the event. The Cardinal then scored 49.400 on the vault, its best score on any event.

“This is one team that doesn’t like to do things the easy way,” Janiga said. “We’ll make it hard on ourselves, but that just shows how tough we are.”
Stanford finished third in the NCAA Finals in 2004 and 2008, but there were several points in this season when head coach Kristen Smyth wondered if her team could come close to those previous squads’ success.

“The team has grown so much since the start of the year,” Smyth said. “Every weekend, they started to believe more and more that they were capable of doing great things.”

In fact, the five-member senior class, which includes Janiga, Ishino, West, Blair Ryland and Stephanie Carter, reached the Super Six three times, more than any other class at Stanford. At the end of the day on Friday, the seniors gathered together in a tearful embrace.

“We were reflecting on the past four years together, and how we’ve led the team this year,” Janiga said. “Not just us, but everybody on the team really stepped up throughout the year. I was just kind of relishing the moment and soaking it in.”

But Janiga’s season was not over on Friday, as she capped off her collegiate gymnastics career with a national championship on Saturday, becoming the second individual champion in Stanford school history. She scored a 9.9375 to win the uneven bars and a 9.8875 to tie for second on the balance beam, producing the highest score a Stanford gymnast has ever received in the Individual Event Finals.

“Tonight, Carly was what she has been for our team for the past four years: amazing, and an absolute rock for our program,” Smyth said. “She is going to be impossible to replace, and it has been such a privilege to work with someone with her work ethic and character.”

Janiga finished her career with nine All-America honors, tying volunteer assistant coach Lindsay Wing as the third-most decorated gymnast ever at Stanford. Her five first-team All-American honors, including three this year, tie her with Wing and Natalie Foley as the second-highest in that category in Cardinal history. Janiga was joined in the Individual Finals by fellow senior Ryland, who placed ninth on the vault with a 9.7625.

With the fourth-place finish, Stanford’s season is now over.

As Smyth said of her senior gymnasts in their final meet, “they get to go out with such pride, knowing that they took this program where it had never been before.”